2015-11-27 / In the Know

Scarborough’s smoke detector grant program declared a success

By B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

Two years ago the Scarborough Fire Department was successful in obtaining regional grant funding from FEMA’s Fire Prevention Grant Program in the amount of $251,200. The initiative was a cooperative project with the Falmouth Fire Department, Southern Maine Community College, and the Maine Center for Deafness.

Over the past two years firefighters and volunteers from MCD have been to hundreds of homes installing more than 6,000 smoke, carbon monoxide, and tactile detectors for the hard of hearing with long-life, 10-year batteries.

The grant project has been successful in a number of ways. First it has provided free detectors for residents that may have struggled to afford them without assistance. More importantly it provided our firefighters an opportunity to get out into the community to visit with our citizens.

At each visit not only did we install detectors, but we conducted a brief safety inspection looking for fire safety issues as well as trip and fall hazards. We provided fire prevention information and educational materials and collected data that will help us determine the needs for similar future projects.

Although we are still analyzing the data there are some general findings that I wanted to share.

One of the lessons learned is that there are a lot of old smoke detectors out there that are in need of replacement.

Detectors are only good for 10 years due to the technology they use. After that time, even if they still appear to test correctly when you activate the test button, the sensing technology is no longer reliable and they should be replaced.

The data we collected shows that in the homes we visited a significant percentage of them had outdated detectors that were in need of replacement.

Every detector has the manufacture date stamped on the backside so it is easy to determine how old your detectors are. Simply turn the detector 1/4 and it should release from its base so you can see the date on the back.

Previous educational campaigns and new code requirements have helped get detectors installed in a high percentage of our homes and businesses, but we need to do a better job of explaining the importance of replacing detectors at the end of their ten-year service life.

One of the other areas we noted was the lack of adequate coverage. Smoke detectors should be installed on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and in the hall or area leading to the bedrooms.

A carbon monoxide detector should also be installed on each level of the home to monitor for this invisible, colorless, odorless gas that can be lethal in high concentrations.

Once again many homes in Scarborough had insufficient coverage particularly with Carbon Monoxide detectors.

I’m sorry to report that the grant has officially ended and the vast majority of our inventory has been distributed.

We have a small quantity of detectors that we carry on the fire trucks in case we get to an address and find that the home doesn’t have any functioning detectors so we can install them and provide emergency coverage until other arrangements can be made.

If residents have a concern about their detectors give us a call on our business line, 883-4542, and we will send someone out to assist. If you are in need of replacement detectors the American Red Cross is still working on a program where they are also providing and installing free detectors.

Thank you to the citizens that have invited us into their homes. It has allowed us to positively interact with the community, provide some fire prevention and safety education, and collect important data that will be shared with other departments so they can work on similar projects to assist the residents of their communities.

If you have any questions about this article or any fire department issue you may contact me at mthurl@ ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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